The opinion piece “Lift the charter school cap” (The Podium, April 30) acknowledges that persistent poverty-based achievement gaps exist among students in Massachusetts. One of Governor Patrick’s reports acknowledged that poverty is pernicious. When poverty may cause students to have inadequate dental and medical care, live in substandard housing, have nutritional deficiencies, or be exposed to violence in the neighborhood, their education suffers. Imagine the impact a murder in the neighborhood has on young children.
We can never use poverty as an excuse for any achievement gap, but refusal to acknowledge its effect on students means that society will not work strenuously to eliminate poverty. We need many programs to assist families in their attempts to advance economically and to get the best education for their children.
Early childhood education has a powerfully positive impact on the achievement of all students, whatever the income level of their families. However, many students living in poverty receive incredible supports that poverty denies them. Of course, we need to support many programs that will attack poverty, but a sustained commitment to early childhood education would do far more to better the education of children living in poverty than lifting the charter school cap.